This is weird, but my first Taxol (IV chemo) treatment spurred me to go write another fucking poem. . . Go figure.
Practical Taxol will grin you a pin
Pine needles off the forest floor to flood your intimate unfoldings
A swarm of ants rushing your pants
And not the good kind either
You reach down to make sure they are in fact all in your head
But then your head is where it all is
The narrative you’ve chosen
The story you tell
The way you assemble a lineage from random points in space.
The tapping of the Taxol pump is so like the insistent slurping of your breast pump of yore.
I want MILK, I want MILK cried the breast pump
FUCK you FUCK you FUCK you admonishes the Taxol
You need to align these runes, dissonant and distant though they may be—
The fool-making fatigue of cancer treatment
Turning you into a bum
A bag lady who wears shmates and shuffles about outside;
Isn’t this you the same one who dragged her feet
staggering behind two toddlers at the playground,
blithely allowing one of them to eat his weight in woodchips?
Surrounded by nurses in protective ponchos and goggles
Whether in the bright steel c-section operating theater
or the gray scale chemo suite
The moment when you feel something has gone wrong. Not a little wrong, but WRONG, alarm bell red wrong your breath catches and holds on, unable to work by itself, you have to tell it In, Out, In, Out or it will stop altogether
You feel your pulse in your groin and abdomen
Your body contracts and wants to retch and you know you cannot, must not be here.
In that moment you become not-you, something extra, something made of energy, made of the bright desperation of past and future.
For Example: When your grandmother opened the shawl where she had lovingly tucked in the baby for the long sled ride through the snow, away from the pogroms, and found him suffocated
For Example: When your mother sat beside a man on the bus who began to masturbate, trapping her in the corner seat, left to pretend she wasn’t seeing what she was seeing
For Example: When your mother pretended not to see what she was seeing as your uncle stroked your calves in the backseat of his car
The need to be not-there transmogrifies you, rebirths you as a sweaty, burnt-smelling electric charge.
It happened in the moment when your fever and pain crashed together and your oncologist shouted “IT’S METASTATIC BREAST CANCER!” down the phone into your unbelieving ear as if you were a developmentally disabled person who had won the lottery. “ARE YOU SHOCKED?”
Not when your child calls you in the hospital, and then calls back less than a minute later, and his otherwise empathic younger brother makes fun of him. Not then.
But it happens the moment when that cool cat breaks down in sobs and admits that he called back because he thought it could be the last time he talks to you.
It happened sometimes watching roiling thunderstorms from nana’s safe enclosed porch. Your mother called it “heat lightening.” Rain pulsing in through the screen doors, scattering shattering lightning daring us to go out. Daring us to become a moment, a charge, something not quite there and then truly gone.